I was attending the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference this past weekend and was talking to an author of over 70 novels. Though a Washington native, she had recently spoken at a Florida writers’ conference. She sighed at the memory of that conference and the swirl of commotion outside the room where we were chatting. “I told my husband I didn’t know if I could do this again,” she confessed. “I said I didn’t know if I could bear the desperation any longer.” That was just it, I thought. That is exactly what I feel trembling behind the eyes of so many attendees. To write is to sit alone and feel within yourself something valuable enough to share with other human beings. Whatever it is you wish to share does not exist until you choose to write it, and until then it is only a feeling without form, like love itself which will never be proven with flowers or kisses or words, and certainly not acceptance letters from literary agents.
And then to go to a conference and see the hundreds and hundreds of others writers each with their own valuable story, each looking for the same thing you were looking for; to hear the agents talk of query letters and diminishing opportunities and developing markets; to wait for your name at the award banquet – how disorienting to that part of you that never wanted proof of anything you cared about other than the caring. Who would not be desperate if she believed her very value rested in the opinion of a smartly dressed stranger from New York?
Good to sit a while with coffee and make new friends of these other writers. They can take nothing from you, it turns out. And why would they? Everyone had come to this place not to keep something nor even to get something, but for the chance to share and share and share. Not a bad idea, if you can remember it. Meanwhile, how desperate and lost you will feel as you wander the halls and conference rooms in search of what you already possess.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.